NORTH ADAMS -- In recognition of Children's Mental Health Week, Mayor Richard Alcombright and Northern Berkshire social service professionals are urging residents to drop the stigma attached to mental illness.
"Kids walk around with broken arms, broken legs and missing teeth and we notice all that," Alcombright said during a recent press conference with professionals. "But many of our youth are also broken inside at some level."
Alcombright, who at the April 23 City Council meeting proclaimed May 6-12 as Children's Mental Health Awareness Week in the city, stressed Northern Berkshire has many resources for children suffering from a mental illness such as depression.
The Family Place, a free resource center associated with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, provides a "proactive" approach to families, Family Support Worker Kathy Quinn explained.
"[Families] can come in and have a conversation with us," she said. "We prioritize what's getting in their way, how we can support them and connect them to a resource," she said.
Family Support Worker Carrie Crews of the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse said the organization provides a crisis team that performs assessments at home.
In addition, the family support and training program provides mentors to parents of children with special needs, she said.
"They're somebody who can really connect to you and say, ‘Yes, I know exactly how that felt when it happened to my kid,' " Crews said.
The center also offers a care coordination program for families receiving assistance from multiple social service organizations, Crews said. The program brings all parties together to create a plan and set goals for the family, she explained.
Organizer Annie Rodgers said community members are invited to monthly meetings of the Northern Berkshire Systems of Care, a committee that seeks to raise awareness on mental health issues. The next meeting takes place Friday, May 24, from 2 to 3 p.m., at Childcare of the Berkshires, 210 State St.
"You don't necessarily need to have a master's degree in psychology," she said. "If you're someone who has time to give and brainpower to lend, we welcome you to our meetings."
Alcombright added that several North Adams Police Department officers have been trained in crisis intervention, which helps them react to situations involving mental illness or developmental disability.
Alcombright urged parents to notice warning signs children may exhibit, such as excessive sleeping, changes in mood, drops in grades and not wanting to socialize with friends.
"I think youth that suffer from a mental illness feel lost and alone," he said. "There are roots and causes to these problems, and there are also fixes."
Where to go
Local mental health resources
The Brien Center
Offering a variety of services for children and adolescents
124 American Legion Drive, North Adams
The Family Place
Free resource center for families
61 Main St., suite #208, North Adams
Berkshire County Transitional Age Youth's Directory of Services
Website listing youth services: www.tayberkshire.org
Berkshire Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Youth Suicide Prevention Project
Specializing in suicide prevention
Email Bear McHugh firstname.lastname@example.org or call 413-447-2417
Northern Berkshire Systems of Care Committee
Community group to raise awareness of mental health issues
Email Annie Rodgers at email@example.com or call 413-663-7588